As an elite runner I know it can be incredibly frustrating to get an injury. That consistency in running is what generally allows great results over time. Apart from racing, not being able to get out and enjoy the headspace that can come with running is really frustrating. So why do runners and triathletes get injured?
If you compare the injuries sustained by runners to that of sprinters or footballers and field sports they have a distinct common trait. As runners we don’t get muscle tears or really muscle injuries. A muscle might go into spasm, but it will not be a tear. Our injuries are what we call passive injuries. The passive system is the ligaments, tendons and joints which give us support all the time, we don’t have to do anything for this. Now these structures should work in tandem with the muscular system and the nervous system to help absorb force when we run. The nervous system should keep our joints in a good alignment and send appropriate firing of the muscles. The muscles of the body should contract more and take a lot of the force. However, what happens is that the nervous system and the muscular systems become laze and do not work the way they should. This causes the passive system, the ligaments, tendons and joints to have to take all the force and become overloaded.
In addition to the passive structures having to do all the work to absorb the force when we hit the ground, most runners can move in a small range of motion. We jog or run at the same speed and generally focus on increasing the distance. This again increases the chance of injury because now the Achilles tendon, or the plantar fascia or our knee or hip joints are only being moved and stressed in a very small range of motion. Injuries occur when the load placed on these structures is above what it can handle. When we do the same type of movement and only increase the distance and our musculature does not help take some of the load this leads to overload in the part of the tendon, ligament or joint that has to take the load, which leads to injury. In the next blog I talk about what can be done to prevent this by making sure your weekly programme has 1. Variety, 2. A strength training component and 3. You do not increase your distance too quickly.